Croatian striker and MMA legend Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic proved many of his critics wrong as he toppled young lion Patrick Barry in the co-main event of UFC 115: Liddell Vs. Franklin last night. Cro Cop weathered an early storm from Barry to earn a submission victory in the third round.
“I was aware the people were talking about how I’m too old,” Cro Cop stated at the UFC 115 post-fight press conference. “I’ve got to tell you my preparation for this fight was the hardest preparation in all my life.
“He’s [Barry] still fighting for dollars, and those kind of fighters are hungry, those are the most dangerous types of fighters,” he continued.
Cro Cop walked away from the event with a $85,000 “Submission of the Night” bonus and possibly a new contract with the UFC. Cro Cop, whose fight with Barry was the last of his current contract, noted that he planned on finishing his career with the UFC and plans to move forward on negotiating a new contract with the organization.
“We’re going to talk to Mirko and see what Mirko wants to do,” UFC President Dana White stated at the press conference. “He has said to me and Lorenzo [Fertitta] that he wants to finish his career here in the UFC, so we plan on him finishing his career with the UFC.”
Things looked bad early in the fight for Cro Cop as he was dropped twice by right hands from Barry. He bounced back quickly both times but was aided by the fact that Barry did not attempt to follow him to the ground. Cro Cop started to turn the momentum in his favor at the end of the round though as he took Barry down and landed a nice combo to punctuate the first round.
“Patrick caught me twice,” Cro Cop recalled of the opening round. “I just felt pain in my eye… I wasn’t dizzy, I had double vision in my eye. I had a game plan and was just doing my thing.”
The second round was all Cro Cop as he showed versatility in his striking game and instituted his rarely used ground game. He capitalized on Barry’s basically non-existent ground skills by going for a guillotine after knocking Barry off balance and taking full mount before transitioning into back mount and trying for a rear naked choke as the clock wound down. As the fight went on, Barry gassed while Cro Cop seemed to get stronger.
“I think that was the key to the victory,” he admitted. “Some of my fights in PRIDE, I felt tired. I would train on the punching bag and feel great but then get tired in my fights. This time I trained harder than I ever have in my life. Never in my career have I felt so comfortable and so full of energy as tonight. That was all in my training.”
Round three started off with some nice exchanges before Cro Cop actually landed an axe kick on Barry. Filipovic got dropped again with a right hand but popped back up quickly and looked to make Barry pay. After some more exchanges that saw Cro Cop pushing forward, the former Croatian parliamentarian put Barry down with strikes and finished him with a rear naked choke, his first submission victory since he defeated Josh Barnett with strikes at Pride Final Conflict Absolute in 2006.
“People consider me a striker, but I have trained jiu-jitsu for 10 years,” Cro Cop said. “Of course I can choke or submit anyone.”
Many noticed a change in demeanor in Cro Cop in the weeks leading up to the fight. Instead of being distant and stand-offish, Cro Cop would joke with the media and with his opponent.
“Patrick [Barry] is a nice guy,” he said. “We talked a lot before the fight. I’m not the kind of fighter who just hates each other before the fight. I can talk to you until one minute before the fight and then I will take your head off if I can.
“I don’t need to hate someone. I’m a professional, he’s a professional.”
Cro Cop, who took the mic after his victory and joked about how Dana White should award him the submission of the night, noted that we weren’t seeing a “new” Mirko Cro Cop.
“I was always like this,” he noted. “I just didn’t like to show it. My friends know it, there’s always some crazy jokes with me.”
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.